Friday, December 30, 2005

turn the clock to zero

It has been a long December, and there is reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last. Why? I will tell you why. Granted, they are not Americans, but the British have voted Tom Cruise the most irritating actor of the year.

Okay, just kidding. I do not really know why there is cause for hope. If you really think about 2005, or have the year shoved in your face by morning news programs, it is certainly cause for getting a prescription for some strong antidepressants. Yet, in another way, all of the tragedies that befell so many people really crystallize how precious life is. Both life and time are fleetng. Furthermore, if people can rise up, get that dirt off their shoulder, and keep going after bombs, earthquakes, hurricanes, then the everyday things we find insurmountable really cannot be.

One of my cousins has a pretty life-altering physical disability. We were talking about it once, about the impact it had on her life. And she said that at some point, she stopped thinking about the why's of her situation. She said that at some point, she decided, I am here, in this world, and I am not going to cower. I have always loved her for that. Even though she was talking about a physical disability, I think it has equal application for being on the fringe for whatever reason.

There are so many things about me that do not fit into some pre-formed expectation. When I was younger, I used to rail against that. Either I chided myself for not just compromising into the role that seemed to be waiting for me, or I berated society for these false constructs of what people are supposed to do when and how. And now, strangely, I feel no anger towards myself or others. It is a simple fact that there is a bell curve. The whole concept of a mainstream is the notion that a large chunk of the population fit into one general category. The rest of us misfits sit on one edge or the other. We are neither better nor worse than the mainstream. We are just different.

But I am here, and I am not going to cower. I guess if there is a resolution to be made for next year, or the next decade, or the rest of my life, that is it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

while Frank Sinatra sang "Stormy Weather"

The next time I question whether I should continue blogging, I will remember the perks that befall lucky bloggers, especially in this, the holiday season. How else can one explain a collective of mind-exploding music arriving on my doorstep this evening? Some people should take up putting together playlists for a living. A mixture of this, and an introspective missive from SJM, prompted me to review my year. SJM’s workplace, like mine, uses what I like to call management bullsh*t, which means that everyone is supposed to provide feedback about what works well (their Plus column), and what could use improvement (their Delta column). Because nothing ever works poorly (i.e. their this sucks a$$ column), of course (cue the eye-rolling). I can’t divide my year into a plus column and a delta column, because very little about my year was as black or white as that, I’m afraid.
  • Relevant to this space, I went from my usual, comfortable anonymity to meeting eleven bloggers in person, and got absolutely amazing packages of magic from two bloggers who I have not had the good fortune of meeting yet.
  • I failed to obtain what I wanted most. This should have been a tragedy, I suppose, but it wound up not. I cannot say it is all for the best, not yet, but I can say I might have never known for sure how much I wanted it if it had not slipped through my fingers this year.
  • My grandfather had a heart attack. But he survived it, and it prompted me to see him in June.
  • A friend with whom I’d lost touch committed suicide. There was nothing good about that.
  • Another friend battled it out with the big C and beat it down this year. She looks fantastic, she’s happy, and it’s the best argument for modern medicine I’ve ever witnessed.
  • I did not have to move out of my beloved city.
  • My sorry, peppermint patty-eating, supersized, lazy a$$ made it to Macchu Picchu. All hail the motivational abilities of Gael Garcia Bernal!
  • I fell madly, helplessly in love with science again. And it did not go unrequited.
  • Someone tried to break my heart, in pursuit of a hat trick, but failed.
  • I didn’t quit my job. If I was going to put that in a column, I’m pretty sure it would not be under Plus.

I don’t think it was a fantastically wonderful year for anyone. Even if you were having the best year of your personal life this year, I don’t think you could write it off as a good year, on the basis of earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, intelligent design, etc. But I remain hopeful, as always, despite outward appearances. Hope is something you should keep guarded, actually.

All the cooking that I avoiding on Thanksgiving could not be avoided for Christmas. I forced my GBF to throw Christmas dinner at his place. Being my GBF, his place is ten thousand times more fabulous than mine. However, since I had coerced him into throwing the dinner, I took responsibility for most of the cooking. Luckily, no one was looking for an authentic Christmas meal, so a simple spread went over without grumbles. And I got to buy bourbon, under the excuse of making a pecan pie.

SP & I went on two hikes this weekend. One of them was partially on George Lucas’ property. The entire time we were on that muddy trail, I annoyed SP by making really dumb Star Wars jokes. “Don’t worry about the rain, the Stormtroopers will not allow it.” I’m surprised I was not sent tumbling down the muddy path.

I’ve been disconnected from modern conveniences, and it has not been all that bad. But now, I must return to the Sisyphus-ian task of cleaning my hovel of an apartment. I want to ring in the New Year with a passably straightened out abode.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

faithful friends who are dear to us

As I have been trying, very much in vain, to finish off a slew of things at work, I did not bother to log into my IM account today. Even though some of my co-workers use it to ask me questions, more often than not, my younger cousins use it to blast me with distracting messages like "Wat R U doin? LOL!" You know, the sorts of messages that make you question the future of humanity. I forgot that one of my oldest friends in the whole, wide world is on IM as well. I forgot because he lives in Europe at present, and has a kid, thus making a conversation over IM a rare event. But then, this morning, I get an e-mail that includes this:
It's kind of odd not seeing your IM button lit's like a street light that makes you think everything is okay suddenly goes out.

This is why, after fourteen years of knowing this guy, after a series of rifts, rows, silent treatments, and separations, I am crazy about him. Even though we rarely speak, a sentence like that is enough to earn a place in my heart for life. So, you see, I can swoon over things. They just have to be slight and subtle and surprisingly sincere.

I was caught in a downpour at lunch. It felt like enough cause to go home and cuddle up on the couch with a cup of tea and a book. But I have miles to go before I sleep. Instead, I turn to the other thing I do on rainy afternoons- make guilty confessions. In this case it is this: there are a lot of Christmas carols I actually lurve. I know this is ridiculous and unpardonable, but it cannot be helped.

Once, when I was about fifteen, my friend Shannon dragged me along with her merry group of believers to go caroling in the Northeast snow drifts. We held candles, that kept going out. I didn't prepare very well, however, and knew hardly any of the lyrics to many of the Christmas songs, especially those of a religious nature (sorry, but I still could not sing you much past the first three words of Noel). The funny part is that most of the other kids, the believers, also didn't know the lyrics very well. So, we resorted to singing Jingle Bell Rock. What can I say, we listened to a lot of Oldies stations up in EBF.

Here are the ones that I will admit to liking:
  • 2000 miles, preferably by The Pretenders. Regardless of any bah-humbug feelings one may have about Christmas, this song is really beautiful. If you really want to hate on it, here's more fodder: Coldplay has covered it.
  • Blue Christmas only by Elvis. Because the King can get away with a whole lot of schmaltz.
  • Last Christmas by George Michael. I know, this is really embarassing. I have no excuse. Listening to it makes you a little gay. I don't know. I can't stop.
  • What are you doing New Year's Eve? by Ella Fitzgerald. Technically, I suppose this is not a Christmas carol. But it's by far my favorite holiday song ever. If I could only hear one person sing for the rest of my life, I am pretty sure I would pick Ella to be that person.

Well, that should drive away the three or so remaining readers of this blog. Or maybe you have some guilty confessions you would like to share?

In other news, the secret ingredient to yesterday's brownies: Nutella, or, as I like to call it, the sweet nectar of the gods.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

it felt like Christmastime

goodies on his sleigh

Ways I knew that the holidays were upon me:

  • Feliz Navidad more than 100 times in the last two days. It has gone from amusing absurdity to annoying, as it always does, every year.
  • My co-worker and I spent ten minutes arguing about Johnny Damon today. First, he tried to convince me I should be brooding about losing Damon to the Yankees. I countered with expressing my glee that the Yankees are now saddled with The Jesus, as I like to call him. Now I can dislike Damon without having to feel any guilt whatsoever.
  • The pre-holiday OH SH*T is upon me. I have so much to do, and no way I am going to do it in time. The baking is the least of it. Worst friend on the planet title is quickly approaching a clinch.
  • The number of people shorter than four feet currently circulating in my offices. Before you get all awww, how cute about it, you should know they were not elves. They were little children, who bear great tidings of influenza and other such fun gifts. Also, it's just jarring to see kids at my place of employment. I can no longer curse in peace.
  • Even though it is not snowing in San Francisco, it has been raining. I like that. It provides the somber, introspective mood that is necessary for the holidays.

In other irrelevant news, I dreamt last night that I was playing professional baseball. In the dream, I am the first baseman. The pitcher throws a strike, but the umpire is spacing out and doesn't notice it. So, he calls a ball. Everyone gets upset, but I, inexplicably, throw my glove at him from first base. Everyone looks around- the mood is okay, we were pissed at that call, but who was the nut job who threw a glove at the umpire? So, I hide my hands behind my back instinctively. Everyone shrugs it off and play continues. Of course, now I'm stuck on first base with no glove. Sure enough, here comes a runner barreling towards me. And here comes a ball hurtling towards me. Miraculously, I catch the ball, but then I stand there like a moron. Everyone starts barking at me to tag first. But I'm suddenly so tired, and I just can't seem to bridge the distance. Finally, the pitcher barks at me, and I fall, thus tagging first. I woke up angry that I had wasted good R.E.M on this sort of nonsense. So, of course, I had to waste some waking minutes sharing it here too, for good measure.

Oh... and any guesses on the secret party ingredient in these brownies?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

that may be all I need

Having been wrapped up in rejoicing over the victory against Intelligent Design today, I haven't been paying much attention to anything else. In truth, the ID victory was not that momentous- the Dover board that originally proposed including ID in science classes have since been swept out of their positions in the last election. And it is a little ludicrous that we are having this debate at all eighty years after the Scopes trial. Eighty.

Yesterday's voting poll is still open, but I should warn you that, last night, due to the overwhelming votes (two) in the category, I went ahead and made holiday brownies. I have a feeling those were getting votes because people though I would include a certain festive ingredient into the experiment. Let me assure all you sucker MC's that I did. Pictures tomorrow, when I am not blogging in the dark ages. In a show of solidarity with New Yorkers, I am working from home today. Okay, it's more to do with laziness than New Yorkers, but that can't be much of a surprise to anyone reading this.

More reasons why I am one of the lousiest friends on the planet- I give up on people. I have two friends right now that are in this vortex of depression, a vortex that is mercilessly sucking any happiness in a 50-mile radius, absorbing it, and effortlessly converting it to misery. And instead of confronting them about this, or better yet, standing by them through this, I am just tired. Weary. Drained at the thought of having to see them. There is a strong chance that I will simply distance myself from these people, drift away in baby steps, until one day, there is an irreparable chasm between us. That is okay with me- to me, that is the no drama approach. I have no patience for trying to change people. Instead, I'd rather recognize an inherent incompatability and call it a day. I know that this makes me a robot. Or a Tin Man. I think I need a new heart.

Maybe it's all the more acute because I spent Sunday with a bunch of very well-adjusted people: maisnon, ads, SJM, and Roopali. We strong-armed SJM into seeing Brokeback Mountain, and he was a good enough sport to accompany us with a minimal amount of grumbling. I am convinced that is the only way you can get a straight man to see this movie. Even though I had some nits to pick about it, I thought it was well-done. Ang Lee always has a lot going on in his movies- they're never simply about one thing. His movies seep into you and leave you with a hundred thoughts and questions afterwards. Okay, maybe the Wedding Banquet wasn't quite so heavy, but everything else of his is like mercury, dense and pervasive.

After the film, these good peeps who, with the exception of SJM, are all from out-of-San Francisco, came to my beloved stomping ground. I have not spent a lollygagging Sunday like that in recent memory, and I was sort of in lurve with everything anew. That included the Mission and all its hipster quirks. I was explaining to SJM and ads this new tendency of people to wear Oliver Twist-esque caps. They remarked that they didn't know what that would look like. Just then, just such a tragically hip chick wandered out of Amnesia. And scene.

While I am an introvert, and I am more comfortable being alone, I think what that really means is that I am not revved just by being around a crowd. But I am energized, very much so, by being around people who have interesting things to say and discuss, and are not spending every waking moment crying woe is me. I had forgotten that, because so many people I have met over the past few years have been non-stop drama freakshows. A little even-keeled conversation and company can go a long way.

Oh no... did I just write a post about feelings? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little (TM Dodgeball).

Monday, December 19, 2005

simply remember my favorite things

look at the stars, look how they shine for you

I have been to the same South Indian restaurant in the city twice now, and it’s been open for all of a week and a half. Dosa makes solid South Indian food. It isn’t the kind of South Indian food that will have people raving that it’s the best in the country, but it is straight ahead and authentic enough. The dosas are a little greasy, but not intolerably so. The consistency is right. The sambar is flavorful and spicy enough without destroying my wimpy Guju tongue. They still need to work out a lot of kinks though. The first time I went, we waited for 45 minutes to be seated, even after having made reservations in advance. Last night, we were seated on time, but there were still service errors. Five people got their drinks, while one didn’t get hers until after the meal had been served. The appetizers arrived, but the little dishes that would have been useful did not appear until after everyone was served their entrees. But you find that you don’t make a big deal out of such things when you stumble upon the only real South Indian restaurant in the city.

I inevitably recount stories of my mother in the kitchen at 5 o’clock in the morning, when the topic of Indian cooking comes up. Trying to sleep late on a Saturday morning was impossible in our house, because as early as my mother could, she would have the blender cranked at its highest setting. I suppose she figured, if I’m awake this early, I’m sure as sin going to take everyone else down with me.

One of my mother’s closest friends is a South Indian woman- she taught my mother how to make decent South Indian fare. What I recall most about it was the preparation involved. The process was an art, and a test of patience. Rice and other things were ground and soaked for hours. Then everything was blended. The resulting concoction had to sit again for hours to allow for fermentation. And even if you managed your way through all of that, there was still the matter of perfecting the technique of properly pouring the mixture onto the perfectly-heated skillet that must be wrought iron.

My mother has never taught me to cook anything really. She lacks the patience for teaching, and, especially in the case of South Indian food, is not confident enough with the technique to explain it to someone else. I always remark that the labor-intensive nature of Indian cooking is what keeps me away from it. This is, of course, nonsense, because I spend hours in true bliss working my way through baking experiments.

Saturday, the rain was starting to settle in. As Maria and the Captain were wondering if they had done something good during their miserable youth, I was packaging sugar cookie dough into wax parcels for chilling. When the Captain choked up while crooning Edelweiss, I was mixing chopped pistachios into a separate batch of cookies. The methodical nature of it all is like a metronome, and the process is like the steps of a dance. Perhaps that’s why, so often, I find myself attached to my iPod when undertaking these tasks.

The next morning, there was an unusual tornado warning in the city. I sat perched on my bay window, watching sheets of rain pour down my window pane as the sugar cookie dough warmed to room temperature. Sirens and car alarms in a block’s radius went off as the thunder and lightning coincided in frightening unison. I was not really scared, instead rather fascinated. While the cookies were baking, I made royal icing, which required another quick waltz with egg whites and confectioner’s sugar. Some would find this all a ridiculous waste of time. Buying cookies is not all that difficult. Fine ones are to be found all over San Francisco. But this was how I wanted to spend the appointed 24 hours. As much as I rail against my mother’s ways, something of hers must have seeped into me.

Your reward for wading through all this babble? Have a hand in my next experiment (write-in suggestions also welcome):

what's on deck?
peanut butter chocolate chip crosshatch
almond spritz
double chocolate hazelnut cookies in powdered sugar
iced maple cookies
screw the cookies, time for some cheesecakes
screw the cookies, time for some holiday brownies
yawn... all this baking talk is boring me into the next decade

Free polls from

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm a walking contradiction

Antibodies are one of the weapons in our bodies’ immune arsenal that fight off foreign invaders. They recognize something specific in the foreign invader, namely an antigen, bind to it, and thus issue the war cry. Now, the basic structure of each antibody is fundamentally uniform- a heavy chain and a light chain, typically represented in a Y-shape.

Each antibody also has a constant region and a hypervariable region. The constant region (obviously) is what stays the same. The hypervariable region usually exhibits more differences when you compare two distinct antibodies. Moreover, when your body is mounting an immune response, a period of clonal expansion occurs. During this time, the cells that produce antibodies multiply rapidly. And as they multiply, these hypervariable regions are prone to mutations and translocations, all these little changes that amount to slightly nuanced antibodies at the end of the expansion.

This expansion, and these hypervariable regions are essential. The joint process causes your antibodies to evolve when they’re responding to an invader, such that a set of antibodies at the end of the expansion will be even more specific to the foreign antigen. Just imagine that. We all have the tools in our very make up to remain constant while adapting to challenges. We all have a million possibilities to change and evolve into a better version of ourselves, and certain things about us that are steadfast and unmovable.

By the way, Thursday’s alcohol of choice: champagne, b*tches. Tonight, I predict it’s back to vodka.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

your liver pays dearly now for youthful magic moments

Monday: Grey Goose & tonic, twist of lime.

Tuesday: Charbay Lime & tonic, so strong that I had to (sheepishly) ask the barkeep to dilute it with more tonic.

Wednesday: Devil's Kiss at Range, consisting of Chopin vodka, pomegranate (!) juice, and some other good stuff. Pretty, and I'm usually not one for pretty drinks.

Thursday: Any suggestions in keeping with the holiday spirit? I have already had a half a glass of champagne and a glass of pinot noir during work hours, so at this point, anything clearly goes.

This seems like perfect evidence that freedom after a period of too much restraint is a cheap ticket to trouble.

In other news, after sating my stomach last night and having an awkward but ultimately harmless argument with my friend SP, I savored the cold, biting air that has rested itself in San Francisco of late. The cold is a necessary thing at times. It forces us to pause, huddle together, wrap a blanket around ourselves. It makes us feel like it is December, which is something, if you live in San Francisco, you need to be reminded of every once in a while.

Afterwards, I wondered if I had become a lightweight. Was I drunk? What else could explain turning on the idiot box to watch Alias, and enjoying it? Wha?!?

Tonight is PG's birthday, but I am celebrating as well. Celebrating temporary freedom, breathing a sigh of relief upon receiving one of my grades, and relishing the chance to take another walk in my neighborhood with a mild chill.

Salil just reminded of the news I heard this morning: former senator William Oxmire passed away. It was sad to be reminded of what he stood for, because it brings to mind just how far the Democratic party has strayed from having some real... well, cojones. Which reminded me of Jon Stewart's skewering of Dean & the Dems last night on The Daily Show- you have to watch the Shrub make a fool of himself for a few minutes before it gets to Dean, but it's always worth reminding yourself of our great commander-in-chief's press charms. I am so disillusioned with Democrats that I am yearning for a crazy third party candidate... I would even consider voting for Ross Perot at this point. Look, as I have stated previously, I would certainly like to see a woman as President of the United States. However, that woman is not Hillary Clinton. And if the Democrats are pushing her as their most likely candidate, I am going to start campaigning for Ralph Nader and John McCain or some such other apocalyptic combination to make the 2008 ticket. Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I like driving backwards in the fog

The tough part of my week is behind me, better days lie ahead. You cannot ask for a better Wednesday than that. I had a flurry of realizations recently, which I attribute to being focused on one thing. I find when I'm focused on one thing, all the other random thoughts that usually distract me are working themselves out in the background. Some times. Other times, the focus just leads to be acting like a crazy person. It's often difficult to distinguish between a realization and a psychotic break, at least in my world. Here are some of the random things that occurred to me:
  • I don't actually despise my work. I am not fulfilled by it, and some times it seems to be sucking me of verve. But, there are many things about it that are fab. For one thing, I am able to pay my rent every month without going hungry. For another, my employer is actually a pretty fascinating company that does interesting things. It's only my specific cog in the wheel that is rather dull. And our CEO is bizarre in the best way possible. A short while back, he sent out a scathing e-mail to the entire senior staff about powerpoint presentations and the use of jargon. He then spent his entire weekend constructing electronic cards with consultant-speech catchphrases that piss him off. We are supposed to print these cards out and use them like Bingo cards at meetings. That is so eccentric and random that I, predictably, lurve it. This is particularly cause for the warm fuzzies because I do not work at a small start-up business, but at a corporation. Of course, this could all be cause for the cold oh-crappies if my employer catches me writing about them, so I think it best to shut up now.

  • While it is true that I had to take classes to get where I want to go, they had a special value in and of themself. It will have to be the topic of an entire, overly analytical post on its own, but I have come to see that I used to have a Rosetta stone, something I could rely on for understanding. It was that which held me steady. I pulled the rug out from underneath myself many years ago, and finally my feet are hovering close to the ground. If you ask me what I believe in, what I rely on, what pulls me out of darkness and gloom, this is it: science.

  • As a friend, I am really only about 50/50 in terms of value. On the one hand, I will give it to you straight and support you. On the other hand, that support has an expiration date. I do not fit in the long-suffering friend category. I am also woefully bad about being accessible at times. So, I think it is, in some ways, a question of consistency. I am an inconstant friend, but I think that is how life is. Some times, you are in a circumstance where a certain sort of person will have an affinity for what you're going to. But that circumstance will pass, and that person will inevitably drift away. I am also inconsistent about my devotion to friends. Some years, when I have the luxury of time, I am all about the holidays and shopping and presents and thoughtfulness. Other years (ahem, cough, cough), I am total crap.

  • This shows what a weirdo I am, but whenever I give blood, I feel really boring. When you give blood, you are asked a series of questions about your lifestyle. They include things like, "Have you ever had sex with a man who has had sex with another man?" "Have you ever injected yourself with drugs?" "Have you ever had sex with someone who has injected themselves with drugs?" "Engaged in sex for drugs or money?" These questions are always fired off in monotone, artillery-style procession. And I just can't stop myself from thinking man, I really don't get out enough.

  • The extroverts I know are held to a certain standard. Even though it is in their nature to be outgoing and around people, they have to appreciate a little time to themselves. They have to be able to be alone. I realized recently that I don't hold my introverted friends to the same standard. I let them get away with oh I can't go out with those party-people, because that is totally not my scene, and it would tire me just being around them excuses. That is not right. Just because you are an extrovert, you don't get a free pass to be clingy/needy. So it should follow that just because you are an introvert, you should not get special dispensation to sit at home watching the paint peel rather than conversing with other humans.

Yes, I know, say it with me now: DUH on all fronts. What can I say? I am slow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

so little time, try to understand that I

Why ease into something when you can just jump in, eyes closed, fists clenched, head first? Sometimes it feels like this question recurs in my head over and over in my brain. I should remember the answer, considering I always seem to choose the latter over the former. Experience should teach me not to go to such extremes, but that is where my convenient selective memory lapses come in handy. The bigger issue, I think, is that I am actually not much of an extremist. I do not have the stomach for that unsteady excitement. And yet, time and time again, I swing from one side of the pendulum to the other.

Last night, after a weekend of channeling Howard Hughes- okay, forget it, I have been channeling Howard Hughes for a lot longer than that, with my lock myself in my apartment approach to studying- I took one grueling exam. Here is where I win the Geek of the Year award. I like a good exam. Not an easy exam, a good one, one where you appreciate the questions as either being thought-provoking or as important questions you should know the answer to. This test was that sort of exam. So, regardless of how I did, I cannot complain about it. After that was behind me, a few of us went to a relatively new lounge-y place nearby. I had a much-needed Grey Goose & Tonic, and all was right with the world for a solid forty-five minutes.

Forty-five minutes later, I was frantically trying to force myself to get to sleep. See, the problem with being GOTY is that taking exams actually elicit something akin to an endorphin-release in me. Even after the drink, and a brisk walk home in the cold, I was bouncing off the walls. Normally, I would just go with that, but this morning, I had an 8 am meeting with three VPs at our company. Yeah, not something you can really blow off, per se.

Tonight, I have a business dinner to attend (yes, that sound you heard was my eyes rolling viciously). Tomorrow night, I am having dinner with friends at a new restaurant in my neighborhood. On deck for Thursday night- a birthday dinner for my pseudo-bro PG at a new South Indian restaurant. Friday night, hot date at another new eatery in my neighborhood.

Here is what I find amazing about this schedule- last week, I was a total hermit. In fact, I have been acting quite the fool for the better chunk of a month with my anti-social behavior. And yet, quite inexplicably, it's all Foodie's Delight with this week's schedule. Is this just because I bought a planner last week? Much as I would like to attribute a planner with such magical qualities, no. Face it, I am just one lucky b*tch. There are peeps who have been consistently putting up with my inconsistent behavior, and planning things around my schedule without much of a fuss. And for that alone, I lurve them.

Sorry, I am just not feeling the Scroogey McGrumpyPants today. Actually, I guess I could mention two Scrooge-inducing items, just so you do not think this blog has been kidnapped by some cheery Sister Mary Sunshine. First, Poplicks does an excellent job of summing up (in a much more articulate way than I ever could) why the soon-to-be unleashed Memoirs of a Geisha is causing smoke to come out of my ears. Second, I just have a request for all the musicians out there: could you please, for the love of all that is good and decent in this world, stop trying to cover Last Christmas? Stop! I have already heard Jimmy Eat World, Manic Street Preachers, Hilary Spawn of Satan Duff, BTH, and The Cheetah Girls all cover this song. Stop it! It's George Michael's, dudes. Seriously, leave it alone. I am begging you.

Since I just inadvertently confessed that I like George Michael and a Christmas-themed song, let me up the humiliation by mentioning that I, for a very long time, believed that there was a line in the song that went: crowded room, friends with tie-dyes. Seriously. Because nothing says the holidays like a hippie/stoner?

Monday, December 12, 2005

bye bye blackbird

Brimful can't come to the blog right now, but she's sorry to hear of the passing of Richard Pryor, who she has lurved without pause ever since the days of Brewster's Millions and even The Toy. She's also sorry she has taken to writing in the third person, and promises to return to the mediocre writing style for which she has become so anonymous starting... well, hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm in hiding

Ah, Friday, that inevitable moment in my week when I think, holy sh*t, how did the week disappear? and son of a @#!!?#@, I only have the weekend to get the rest of this done? State of Procrastination, population: me. It seems to work, however, because the guilt fuels sequestering myself into the enclaves of study central, to anxiously cram every last bit of information into my brain as possible.

Lately I have been feeling like I should not post if I have nothing useful to write. Then I remember that this is my blog, and as such, never has anything useful to say. Really, at the moment, I think it might be better if I spent more time reading Nature. Not that I really care that identification of the dog genome has just been completed. I mean, I understand that this is a big deal. By sequencing each of these genomes (chimps, humans, dogs, fruit flies), scientists will figure out how much ties us together, and how small the differences are that differentiate us. I know that's a big deal. It is even profound. When you think about how little genetic difference there is between you and your nearest neighbor, it really makes you wonder why there is not more tolerance in this world. Still, dog genome sequences- not my idea of a fun read. But that's just me.

I'm spending the rest of the day all Mission Impossible-style. We're talking the television show, not the Cruise-azy version. The funniest of my missions is a secret exchange at a hotel, where a package with my name will be waiting at a counter. How much do you want to bet I get searched under suspicion of terrorism?

In other news, bro-seph now knows I have a blog, but he does not know where. Let's see if I am sufficiently cloaked in anonymity. He has also started a blog. If he posts regularly, I might come out of the closet. I think I have little to worry about though. Yesterday, it took him thirty minutes to come up with the title of his first blog post, which wound up being: "testing."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

we've got the dreamer's disease

Because the bro-seph and I collectively add up the mental age of four:
Bro-seph: Okay, make 7...
me: UP yours?
Bro-seph: Hey, watch your language!
He also asked me when Christmas is this year, so I think we are both suffering from brain melt at present.

Some disturbing news came out today. An NEJM editorial today ripped Merck a new one on withholding data on Vioxx in a publication. NYT summarizes the journal pretty well. I know the Vioxx controversy is old news at this point to most, but I think this article points out what a massive mistake can be made by tiny missteps.

Data on Vioxx were published in the NEJM in 2000, but these data left out three patients who had cardiovascular events. This is where it gets very complicated, and yet not at all complicated. The data published in the 2000 article was for a specific part of the study. Merck quickly released a statement today (to avoid any trouble, I'm not linking to it, but it's easy to find on their site), that claims that the publication "fairly and accurately described the results of the study as of the pre-specified cutoff for analysis." The accurately part is true in that statement; the fairly part is highly debatable.

You could quibble this way and that for quite some time on the finer points of this, but I will point you to the one statement in the NEJM article that did me in:
"We determined from a computer diskette that some of these data were deleted from the VIGOR manuscript two days before it was initially submitted to the Journal on May 18, 2000."
To me, that was the proverbial nail in the coffin. When a manuscript like this is written, quite often the original author puts together a draft that gets edited along the way by all kinds of people. This means that, at some point, someone thought it was worth mentioning these cardiovascular events. And worse yet, it means that, at some point, someone else thought there was a reason to omit this information. That is willful. That is hard to defend.

I suppose this news really has been bothering me very much because I have a good many friends that have an association with the company. These friends are not evildoers. Were they presented with the ethical quandary, they very likely would have acted opposite. A lot of them really believe in what they do. And when someone at the top makes a mistake like this, it sullies their reputation and their sense of purpose. Ten years ago, Merck was one of the best regarded pharmaceutical companies around. It was considered an extremely conservative company, that erred always on the safe side when it came to protecting patients. A decade later, it has become the most often cited example of why pharmaceutical companies are evil. Certainly, I feel badly for the patients that were put at risk due to this mistake. But I have to own that I also feel really badly for people who put hard labor into working at the company that lets them down. Ugh, the corporate world.

In much, much lighter news, I had a secret rendezvous meeting with my professor last night. We talked for an hour about questions that I had totally concocted. In the end, it was actually useful because, even though I thought I already knew the answers to my questions, it turns out I did not, not thoroughly. Anyway, the professor claimed last night that he made the last exam difficult specifically to stump me. That made me go squee in my heart, and, if it could have shown with my skin coloring, I would have been blushing from ear to ear. As my friend AL keeps remarking when I tell him these stories: "Geek love... it's a little gross." Whatever, dude. As long as I do well on my final, it was all worth it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

by now you know it's not going to stop

When we last left off, the writer of this blog was threatening to maim herself or make career-limiting proclamations to the world. Though it would be much more tantalizing had she actually made good on either of the just mentioned dares, she predictably folded like a cheap suit, sitting demurely while ridiculously long-winded arguments whizzed past her head. She did crack a few snarky remarks under her breath towards the end of the day. She paid for this in some sort of karmic manner by having an allergy attack of massive proportions last night. She now worries that she has some mixture of allergies and the avian influenza (hey, it's the new "I think I'm getting the black lung, Pop"). She also needs to stop referring to herself in the third person, since it is extremely arrogant and annoying.

Yesterday, one pesky individual spilled the beans about my studies to most of the team with whom I work. This elicited a "oh, that's why she so crazy" pitying glance from them, and a flare of terror/anger from me. B*tch, what part of keeping it on the d.l do you not understand? Strangely, the anxiety about this revelation did not last for very long.

I think I am feeling a little burned out. Though I wanted to go somewhere exotic for the holidays (read: anywhere far away), I had to reckon with the fact that a) my family would disown me if I did, and b) I really need to stay here and be productive during my break from corporate slavery. Even though I know that's right and what needs to be done, I am feeling a little double battery, single power about it. Drink, b*tches, drink (um, you have to read the comments from the last blog entry to understand this)!

Which reminds me that I should mention- in addition to the always hilarious ads and maisnon, I got to meet the sweetest little thing this side of the Mississippi on Saturday- Roop. Dude, her blog is named after a phrase from G.I. Joe- what's not to like?

One last thing- funniest conversation during an otherwise mindnumbingly boring day:
Coworker: Oh yeah, Potrero Hill is awful.
Me: There are some parts of it that are nice though, right? By Baraka and Chez Papa?
Coworker: (shrugs, deadpans) Yeah, but you'll still get shot.
Always look on the bright side of life, indeed.

Monday, December 05, 2005

come back from San Francisco, it can't be all that pretty

At the end of November, I was in serious contention to win the Bad Indian Daughter of the Year All-America Competition, by not taking the pains to go home for Thanksgiving. Now, even though I had no plans of going home for Christmas, I thought I was in danger of losing the title, because my parents did not seem particularly phased about it. That's the danger of being a Bad Indian Daughter for too long: you run the risk of turning into the new norm for your family.

Turns out I was worried for no reason. Yesterday, I got a veritable onslaught of guilt trips, back to back, within minutes of each other. In the midst of them, I also got a quick reprieve, in the form of a phone call from Miss D, who hilariously ranted about the way a lot of streets in Potrero Hill fail to connect to the Mission. Ah, I miss the days when those discoveries were new and annoying. I also miss the days when I went out in my neighborhood as much as D, who lives 45 minutes away! Sigh... I lurve that chick's energy. I need to steal me some of that. I think I already have. When driving home with her from a Bollywood blow-out, she said, so quietly that it nearly seemed she was embarassed about it, "I'm really happy." How cute is that sh*t? Let's just hope I don't infect her with my negativity.

Anyway, after a quick chat with D, where I managed, for a change, not to b*tch to her for eleventy billion hours about my friends (a really bad habit that I swear I am going to get in check soon), it was back to the family harassment. My GBF said: "These are good problems to have. It's when they don't want you to come home that you should really be upset." The dude has a point. On the other hand, I had to shut my phone off after the fourth phone call from the latest mama or masi who thought they could be the straw that broke the camel's back. So, let's just say I think I've clinched first place, or at least qualified for the championship medal round.

Tomorrow, I have to spend the entire day in a meeting where we will be generating mission statements and developing messages. It will be interesting to see whether I manage to make it through the day without poking myself in the eye with a fork. Or jumping up with a Network style outburst. These tendencies of mine may explain why a co-worker recently told me that he has put me in "the 5 minute club." I asked him what that meant and he said, "Give me 5 minutes before you start shooting." I didn't mount much of a defense. Personally, I like having my co-workers fear me a little.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I respect the art of the show

Inspired by A N N A's theme and a very surreal Daily Show last night:
They flashed shy smiles at each question posed. When you sell your soul to Satan, does he take away your rosy cheeks? So pale and self-contained, they slinked off camera. In the next shot, a backdrop like blood, flashing lights, and they had come alive. From where had they hatched, so deliciously out of place?

It was something like all-music hour on Comedy Central last night. After the weird TDS musical interlude, The Colbert Report apparently felt the need to continue the theme. After Colbert claimed bragging rights for breaking the news that Noah Drake is returning to General Hospital, he complained that he couldn't get Jesse's Girl out of his head. He asks his PA to fill in the lyrics he can't remember, which follow I wish that I had Jesse's girl. The PA claims he's never heard the song before. At this point, I'm thinking I should either sign up for an AARP card, or this joke is falling tremendously flat. Colbert dismisses the PA, claiming that someone in the audience can cite the lyrics. Next thing you know, Rick Springfield emerges from the audience with an acoustic guitar, in order to croon Why can't I find a woman like that? I am telling you, at this point, I started to wonder if I had accidentally imbibed something hallucinogenic after dinner.

Of course, as a result of this, and a little too much, erm, well, overzealous enthusiasm about a stupid television show (albeit, with very impressive eye candy), I have gone from the mean reds on Wednesday to the blues on a Friday. Which doesn't really fit, given that it stopped raining today after a week of grayness and showers. Count on me to be forever incongruous.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I've never had to knock on wood and I'm glad I haven't yet

Taking a break from the usual b*tching and ranting and randomness, let me start by pointing out that today is World AIDS day. There is a lot of information about the current state of the AIDS epidemic at the UNAIDS and WHO sites today. Last week, the 2005 AIDS epidemic update was reported, and the news is definitely not going to send any agencies cheering for victory.

Let me throw some numbers out there, as a start. Here are some interesting findings about HIV/AIDS in the United States:
  • About 1.1 million people have HIV. About 25% of those people are women.
  • But African-Americans make up 50% of all new HIV cases.
  • And African-American women make up 72% of all new HIV diagnoses in women.

Now consider this: worldwide, it is estimated that 40.3 million people have HIV. It is also estimated that >25 million people have died from AIDS since 1981. For all our fears about avian influenza, note that AIDS has killed just nearly the same number as the 1918 Spanish influenza. Now, let's look at Sub-Saharan Africa:
  • where an estimated 25.8 million people have HIV
  • and 17.8 million of those people are women. In fact, this number accounts for 77% of the world's HIV-infected women.
  • where 64% of all new cases of HIV occur.

Now that you have those numbers before you, check out the ambitious program called "3 by 5." The idea was to get anti-retroviral therapy in the hands of 3 million people in low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2005. I'm not being sarcastic when I call it ambitious. In fact, it was so ambitious that it wound up missing its target, by more than 1 million people.

It's true that global prevention strategies are necessary to get this epidemic under some semblance of control. However, getting access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) cannot be underscored. It's easy to forget that HIV has a 100% mortality rate, unlike an avian influenza or many other viruses. Just this week, NEJM published their results (should be free for viewing) of a study conducted in Haiti. Previously the 1-year survival for Haitians with AIDS has been about 30%, since access to ARTs has been pretty much zilch. Some have argued that the ARTs we use in the US wouldn't be as effective in the developing world anyway, given that there is a high rate of coinfection with all sorts of other diseases in those countries. However, the NEJM article shows that patients that were followed after introduction of ARTs showed 1-year survival of 87% in adults/adolescents, and 98% in children.

It is easy to dismiss HIV as an area that already gets plenty of research dollars, and that it is overhyped, because of the way it manifests in this country in 2005. In the US, it tends to affect poor minorities, homosexuals, and IV drug users. And even though we need to get that under control, people can live with HIV here, thanks to the availability of life-saving therapies. But we have to figure out how to get these therapies into the hands of the rest of the world. Morevoer, we have to seek out the holy grail- an AIDS vaccine. Though it's nearly impossible to develop, we have to try. I have heard people remark that HIV infection is preventable. This is true in theory, but when you have the kind of transmission happening in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, it sure doesn't feel preventable.

When it comes to prevention, I salute South African Bishop Kevin Dowling, who went against the church, and started advocating the use of condoms in South Africa. In South Africa, where AIDS is currently the leading killer of adults and young children, this is just the kind of sanity that is needed.

Oh, and instead of making snarky remarks about Lost, I'll just point you to a synopsis that could beat anything I could come up with by a mile.